The current version of the food pantry started when Fr. John Hoffman announced that St. T’s would begin a food pantry within the newly built parish center in 2002. A group of well intentioned but untrained parishioners met with two veterans of another pantry and discussed the business of helping those in need. It was slow going at first but within a year we were regularly distributing about 80 bags of groceries a month. This was truly a volunteer effort with the parish supplying a place to drop off donations, store them, and distribute them. It was the St. Teresa family that made operating the pantry possible. We had separate teams of volunteers that would shop for the groceries, inventory them, bag them and distribute the grocery bags to our clients. People that were important to the growth & development of the early pantry were
Over the next five years word spread about our little pantry and the demand for groceries increased to 150 bags per month. The amazing thing was that our parish responded by not only increasing the donations, but also by volunteering to help in many ways. Since the pantry was funded independently we relied upon a couple of fundraisers per year to get us through some lean times. One annual event was the Windy City Chili Cook Off which became one of the headline attractions at a local festival and provided enough revenue to fund the pantry for several months. Through the grace of God the pantry always seemed to just have enough food that it never closed its doors early or turned away anyone that came looking for help.
The arrival of Fr. Frank Latzko signaled a new era for the food pantry as Fr. Frank embraced the pantry and homeless dinners and put the resources of the parish behind the ministry. He also emphasized the importance of sharing the gifts that God has given us with those less fortunate, and incorporated donating to the pantry as part of the weekly offertory at Mass. This made us less dependent on purchasing all of our goods and providing our clients with a greater variety of food. One of Father Frank’s goals was challenge us to have weekly food distributions and Loaves and Fishes dinners
The demand at the pantry was even greater once the Great Recession began. By 2012 the pantry was distributing five times as much food compared to our first year of operation. In spite of that, the pantry doors remained open to all those that needed assistance. We started expanding the pantry’s scope by adding additional distribution days on the weekend. This allowed parishioners more access to volunteering their time and talents to help the pantry operate. By 2013 we achieved Father Frank’s goal of weekly food distributions and Loaves and Fishes dinners.
2013 saw another significant change in food pantry operations with the transition to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD). The GCFD provides discounted and free food to pantries. Transition to the GCFD has allowed us to provide a greater variety of food to our clients. In 2014 we ultimately transitioned to a client choice model whereby clients get to choose their food from certain categories of foods. Our loaves and fishes dinners have recently been approved by the GCFD and we will begin to combine certain tasks for efficiency.
The food pantry relies on a once a year fundraiser for about half of the operating funds. The other half come from food and cash donations from our parishioners. The Hunger Walk is a great event in June that focuses on bringing attention to hunger in Chicago. For the last two years, we have had over 100 walkers and raised close to $10K per year for our pantry operations.
Current food pantry operational hours are each Saturday from 10-12 although set up begins at 9am. We also have a food acquisition team that works on Thursday mornings. Our volunteers range across the spectrum of our parish from families to retirees. Volunteering is done through VolunteerSpot and can be accessed through the parish’s website. We welcome all volunteers for this valuable ministry.
Volunteer at the Food Pantry
- Food Pantry Hours:
every Saturday from 9am (setup) until 12 noon
- Food Acquisition Team:
every Thursday morning
Your support is vital to help provide nutrition to our clients at the food pantry. Your donations will ensure we can continue to fulfill our social outreach mission.